When Submission Goes Too Far - Part 1
Programming note: While most posts are about authoritarianism generally or Grace Fellowship specifically this article branches out to another church that exhibits the extremism of the churches outlined through this site.
Recently, I heard of a pastor online who said when talking about reading theological books to his wife, “I don’t know if this is a bad book, but I don’t have time to read it, so you’re not going to read it either. We’ll read it together.” He then goes on to say, “I remember recently my wife had a book and I saw her reading it on the couch and it was about paedobaptism and I said no, we’re not doing that yet, we will become paedobaptists when I’m ready, but my wife is not going to be a paedobaptist three years before I am.” Start at the 20-minute mark if you care to suffer through this, and if you really want to abuse yourself listen to his rant at 22:00 minutes on how he controls his household.
It is not surprising, although grievous, to hear this. I heard of another brother doing this very same thing with his wife, but when confronted by his pastor and lovingly rebuked, he realized the error of his way. He doesn’t think like this anymore and accepts the correction. This man whom I am quoting in the first paragraph has a large following on social media, so I am hesitant to think he would accept such a loving rebuke. He is also a pastor, and from experience, I know that when you try to come alongside to speak the truth in love with a guy who promotes this type of unbiblical submission from the pulpit, it does not go well.
Why should I have so much concern about what my wife reads? If I am the spiritual head of our marriage and lead her in a God-honoring manner, why would I be so domineering in my behavior? A brother in Christ once gave me some good advice when I was struggling with this same behavior. I was a bit controlling in my approach when I first got married. He said that instead of nagging her and being critical of her about the behavior she had, I should pray for her instead. That was some of the best advice I could have got. I was thankful to God for pointing that out early in our marriage. The controlling subsided, and God answered my prayers about a few things I wanted to see her grow in.
There is no reason to strong-arm your wife and say you can read this or that and have her run everything by you that she watches, reads, or puts in her mind. Yes, we sometimes struggle and sin against one another, but I do not control her every move and am not threatened that she will become a pedobaptist if she starts reading RC Sproul. And, if she did, my world would not be crushed, and my house would not be in disarray. I never want to be authoritarian in my household like I suspect this man is. I have met men who are authoritarian and even confronted them from time to time, and their wives live in fear of them.
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul says, “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” Eph. 5:24-25. There is a healthy submission of a wife to her husband. This pastor’s behavior is not representative of this passage in scripture. Instead, this reminds me of someone whom Peter is speaking of in 1 Peter 5:3, “nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” This passage talks about elders and church members, but it can also apply to husbands and wives.
We are not to be the dictator in our homes, and our wives are not to be enslaved and say “Yes sir” to every request we might bark at her. And frankly, I would never want a wife like that. I like having someone who is going to keep me in check and watch out for my sin and watch out for my pride. Men like these men make me more convinced; as Michael Kruger put it in his book Bully Pulpit, “Some of the leaders we are producing---and, if we are honest, some of the leaders we are wanting---have characteristics that are either absent from or completely opposed to the list of leadership characteristics laid out in scripture”